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Is Kazakhstan Mulling a Sisi Bid?

26 Feb

Egypt’s President Sisi has arrived in Astana for a two-day visit and speculation is rife that Kazakhstan may be pondering a bid for the leader who offered to sell himself for the good of Egypt on 24 February.

“If it were possible for me to be sold, I would sell myself,” President Sisi said in a speech on state television.

Immediately, a spoof page appeared on Ebay and bids quickly reached $100,000. The page was subsequently taken down.

“It’s not so unusual that leaders from one country go on to advise other countries – look at Tony Blair and Mikheil Saakashvili,” kazaxia’s politics expert Gary Kefali said today. “But with bidding having already reached $100,000, I think that in the current economic climate, this secondhand leader would be overpriced.”

Kazaxia went down to Carrefour supermarket in Almaty to get the public’s views on this move.

“I think that he [President Sisi] has done a great job in Egypt to ensure stability and unity,” said Nurik, a pensioner doing his weekly shop in the cut-price hypermarket. “$100,001 would be a fair price to bring his expertise to bear on our continued stability here and maybe get these carrots cleaned up.”

President Sisi is thought to be the first Egyptian leader to visit  Astana since Tutankhamun visited in 1325 BC.




The Golden Pug Awards 2013

6 Dec

Yes, it’s that time of year again; the awards season is upon us and Kazaxia has teamed up with our main sponsor, Almaty’s Golden Pug Bar ‘n’ Grill, and Kazakhstan’s kyurdak producers to bring you the 2013 Golden Pug Awards, which this year are awarded in five categories.

The Hugh New Prize

This year’s Hugh New Prize, in memory of the famous British journo, goes to all those Central Asia watchers who came up with the groundbreaking revelations about political analyst Usman Khakhnazarov (first reported in 2003). Yes, it is indeed a pseudonym that has been used by different authors over the years and not a real person.

The Golden Pug Original Research Award

Gerri Peev of the UK’s Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday takes this year’s Original Research Award for her “borrowing” (without attribution) of quotes from The Guardian relating to Tony Blair. We expect nothing less of the Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and the consistently low standards of its online content providers.

The Golden Pug Lifetime Achievement (Central Asia) Award

This year’s Golden Pug Lifetime Achievement (Central Asia) Award goes to Joshua Foust, who has strode the world of Central Asian analysis like a colossus for many years. Now he is bowing out from the journalistic limelight to focus on new pastures. Who among us can forget his memorable ramble through the culinary backwaters of Kyrgyzstan in his piece on the Fajitas of Osh?

Kyurdak Republican Association of Producers (Krap) Award

Pyotor Leopard, who journeyed through Central Asia on a penny farthing this summer – fuelled only by kyurdak, that classic of Kazakh cuisine (fried offal served up with onion and peppers), has been awarded a Kyurdak Gold Card by the Kyurdak Republican Association of Producers, that entitles him to walk into any greasy spoon in Kazakhstan and eat his favourite dish to his heart’s content.

The Golden Pug “Spotlight” Award

There was really only one person in the running for this award, which is given to an individual or team that has done the most to put Central Asia in the spotlight. It is, of course, Gérard Depardieu.

The Blair Rich Project

16 Nov

The jury is still out over the impact that Tony Blair Associates has had on Kazakhstan over the last two years. The former UK prime minister’s consultancy has been advising Astana on a variety of issues since October 2011 in a project dubbed by some observers as “The Blair Rich Project”.

While many Kazakhstan-watchers have pointed to a worsening of the human rights situation and a widespread crackdown in the country since the December 2011 Zhanaozen riots, when 15 protestors were killed, Tony’s crew has witnessed a somewhat different scene.

Using the rose-tinted spectacles supplied by Astana, Tony Blair Associates (TBA) rejected notions of a crackdown, telling the Guardian: “We simply do not agree that the situation in this regard has deteriorated.”

It seems they hadn’t spotted an opposition leader getting jailed for apparently organising the trouble in Zhanaozen, other dissenting political voices being neutered, the silencing of critical media outlets and a further scaling back of the right to free assembly.

The tw0-year contract has just finished and is supposedly up for renewal, but Lord Venal is sceptical it will be prolonged.

“Astana paid $26 million for the services of TBA and, quite frankly, were expecting a bit more Blair for their bucks,” he told Kazaxia.

Tony has only paid flying visits to Kazakhstan, deputising the work to others in his team as he globetrots around sorting out the planet’s problems.

“For that sort of money, Kazakhstan could have bought a million twitter shares (priced initially at $26 a pop), a bar of Kazakhstan chocolate for every person in the country, or around 20% of the Welsh wizard, Gareth Bale,” Lord Venal added.

Another Busy Week for Kazakhstan’s Lawmakers?

4 Oct

Kazakhstan’s parliament has been sitting this last week and it has been grappling with one of the key issues that is preying on voter’s minds – same-sex relationships.

Never mind that many in this energy rich country are without running water and reliable energy supplies, or that some of the disaffected  have been turning to militant Islam in recent years. Lawmakers in the multi-party parliament, which consists of Nur Otan, the pro-presidential party, Ak Zhol, the pro-business and pro-presidential party, and the Communist pro-presidential party, have been getting hot under the collar over same-sex relationships.

As the debate was raging in parliament (or, more likely, deputy Bakhytbek Smagul took his colleagues on a rambling trip through his ill-informed thoughts on homosexuality), the head of the first department of the General Prosecutor’s Office, Almas Mukhamejanov, called for harsh penalties for another key issue in the country – human cloning.

Currently human cloning does not carry a custodial sentence in Kazakhstan, but Mukhamejanov suggested punishing human cloning by imprisonment for a term of 5 years, and up to 12 years if the crime was committed by an organized criminal group.

Kazaxia asked Lord Venal about these developments and he suggested that they might be linked to Tony Blair, who became a Catholic in 2007. His consultancy, Tony Blair Associates, is getting paid a packet (some sources claim $13 million a year) to advise Kazakhstan’s government.

Do the Blairites have a sinister anti-gay cloning message that they are trying to push onto the unsuspecting Kazakh public in the guise of consulting on governance?

Kazakhstan: State Media Muzzled

17 Sep

News reaches Kazaxia that the authorities in Kazakhstan have ordered state-owned media outlets to stick to the accepted party line about events and to not ask awkward questions.

Comments from Darkhan Mynbay, Kazakhstan’s Minister of Culture and Information, carried on Tengri News, said that in the event of emergency situations, Astana will feed information to a pool of officially-sanctioned journos who will then relay the information verbatim.

Kazaxia has been wondering about the inspiration behind this latest move to keep the public uninformed. Could it be linked to the recent visit of Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov, a known hater of the free press? In his country media outlets operate under conditions of self-censorship, a way of keeping them in line and ensuring that the message is strictly controlled by Tashkent.

Self-censorship? Now that’s a good idea!

Another possibility are the links that Astana has formed with Tony Blair Associates. Could Tony’s master of the black arts of spin and the sound bite, Alastair Campbell, have been sharing tips with Mr Mynbay from his time dealing with the UK media’s awkward questions?

Blair’s Rottweiler gives tips on spin

A third possibility is the intervention of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak who was also in Astana recently. Maybe he brought a message from his counterpart north of the border as the North Koreans are the masters of media control.

No questions, please – just write what I say!

Whatever the reasoning behind these moves, it’s not going to help the cherished dream of encouraging critical thinking within the populace of Kazakhstan any time soon.